Is fast food really appropriate in schools?

Is fast food really appropriate in schools?

What children eat at school has come under much scrutiny recently, what with Jamie Oliver and his attempt to overturn the turkey twizzler revolution and the Never Seconds blog going viral.

But now it appears that the fast food chain Subway is to make inroads into school food, as it is rumoured to be opening up a branch in a sixth form college in Greater Manchester. The question is whether such fast food establishments are right for schools and what they have to gain from opening up in them.

School meals have always represented a challenge for those providing them as vast quantities of food need to be produced on a relatively low budget. Add to this the fact that it needs to be served over a long period of time and it is no wonder that some of the options seem less than inspiring. Then there is the fact that the children are then given free reign to choose whatever they like and this invariably leads to a plate piled high with chips and not a lot else. Subway, at least, can offer a more balanced meal with lots of sandwich fillings on offer, all topped off with salad.

A representative from the School Food Trust said: "Many schools use options like serve-yourself salad bars and mix-and-match pasta stations, and we think the 'build-your-own' model does have potential to encourage pupils to eat more veg, salad and fruit at lunchtime." The company has the infrastructure in place to keep such ingredients fresh and as a commercial prospect is likely to do better than the local authority or traditional school meals provider.

Subway on the other hand has come in for a certain amount of criticism in the past due to the high salt content of some of its products.
It has gone some way to rectifying this situation and two years ago announced that it would be cutting the salt by 33 per cent across its ingredients.

The fact remains that even if Subway wins the contract at Parrs Wood High School in Didsbury it will have to come into line with nationally recognised rules governing school food. After all no company has free reign to come into schools and do exactly as they please and the branch of Subway is likely to be a modified version.

The children in the sixth form are of an age when they are probably not going to eat their lunch at school every day. They are likely to go to the local high street and choose their own food from any number of establishments, meaning this is unregulated by the school or local authority.

This leads to another issue, fast food restaurants set up in schools will be given an advantage over other local offerings. Could this be bad for business for them or will pupils still make their way out of the gates and into the locality? The answer to this is probably yes, though any establishment such as Subway inside the school premises will undoubtedly do well and the company surely knows this.

Attracting the younger generation to a brand makes good marketing sense as they could end up being customers for life - so there may be a clamour for space as chains aim to get established in schools and colleges. The pertinent question seems to be however, what would nine-year-old Martha Payne aka VEG have to say about a Subway sandwich presented to her a lunchtime, only time will tell...
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